A month after 27-year-old Desiree McCloud died in a bike crash along the tracks of the First Hill Streetcar, friends, family, and bike advocates gathered last night to call for safety improvements in the area. But although a few city staffers were on hand, commitments to improve safety in the area were vague.
"All of us here need to commit to making streets safer in memory of Desiree," Cathy Tuttle, director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, said. "She was just such a tremendous young woman doing what she should be doing, which is enjoying life and commuting by bicycle." To the city officials in the room, Tuttle promised, "We are going to hold you accountable."
For some at the meeting, making the streets safe means building more protected bike lanes, fewer bike lanes in the "door zone," or temporary protected bike lanes in the area near near the streetcar tracks where McCloud was killed. But McCloud's family called for more: getting rid of streetcars altogether.
"I really can't see any way we can have streetcar tracks and cyclists in the same place," McCloud's brother, Cody, said in an interview after the meeting. "For a city that loves to be so progressive...Seattle is only focused on being reactive. There seems to be no will to be proactive. What dangers will exist for cyclists five years from now? We can't even fathom. How many deaths will it take before the city decides to do something?"
During the meeting, one cyclist cried as she described the fear of riding with her child in the area near the streetcar tracks. Another said he once crashed on the streetcar tracks, which are slippery when it rains, and "shattered" his collarbone. A cyclist who said she was riding with Desiree McCloud during the crash said she didn't see for sure that McCloud's bike tire got stuck in the tracks, but that even if it didn't, McCloud could have been distracted trying to avoid the tracks. "We'll never know for sure," she said, adding later, "I feel personally convinced they were at least involved in her crash."
During the meeting, Dongho Chang, a city traffic engineer, encouraged advocates to give the city feedback on bike plans and made a vague commitment to improve safety near streetcar tracks.
"I know that the desire is to have everything fixed right away and we want to do that," Chang said. "We hear very clearly that you want something better [near the site of McCloud's crash]. There are actually things we could do fairly quickly to make changes and we are going to take that back [to the city]."
The meeting followed a brief memorial for McCloud at the site of her crash, where friends remembered her passion, kindness, and "demand [for] a better world." Throughout both events, McCloud's father was mostly quiet. But after Chang's comments, he spoke up.
"If one of her friends had been hurt or killed, she'd be the one beating on city hall with a sledgehammer," he said. "Here's how you stop the [streetcars]: You want 'em gone? Make them not profitable. You people, you live here. You have the opportunity to stop your friends from riding the damn trollies... If I could afford it, I'd go rent a bulldozer right now and I'd put it right down that goddamn street and I'd tear those tracks out and you wouldn't be able to do anything about it. You people live here... Picket them. Boycott them. Put signs up. They're deadly."